Lt. Col. John Marks, a pilot with the 303rd Fighter Squadron, logged his 6,000th hour in the A-10 Thunderbolt II at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Nov. 14, 2016.
Nearly three decades of flying and 11 combat deployments later, Marks has achieved a milestone that equates to 250 days in the cockpit, which most fighter pilots will never reach and puts him among the highest time fighter pilots in the U.S. Air Force.
Ever since the end of the Cold War Era when Marks began his Air Force career, the mission in the A-10 has remained the same— protect the ground forces.
“Six thousand hours is about 3,500 sorties with a takeoff and landing, often in lousy weather and inhospitable terrain,” said Col. Jim Macaulay, the 442d Operations Group commander. “It’s solving the tactical problem on the ground hundreds of times and getting it right every time, keeping the friendlies safe. This includes being targeted and engaged hundreds of times by enemy fire.”
He also said it’s a testament to Marks’ skill that he’s never had to eject, and they both praise and respect the 442d Maintenance Squadron for keeping the planes mission ready.
Marks’ early sorties were low-altitude missions above a European battlefield, so different tactics have been used in more recent sorties that have focused on high-altitude missions above a middle-eastern battlefield.
“In the end, we can cover the ground forces with everything from a very low-altitude strafe pass only meters away from their position, to a long-range precision weapon delivered from outside threat ranges, and everything in between,” said Marks.
Most combat sorties leave lasting impressions because the adrenaline rush makes it unforgettable, said Marks.
“The trio of missions I flew on February 25, 1991, with Eric Salomonson on which we destroyed or damaged 23 Iraqi tanks with oil fires raging all over Kuwait certainly stands out,” he expressed. “The sky was black from oil fires and smoke and burning targets, lending to an almost apocalyptic feel.”
“Recently, a mission I flew on our most recent trip to Afghanistan, relieving a ground force pinned down by Taliban on 3 sides and in danger of being surrounded, using our own weapons while also coordinating strikes by an AC-130 gunship, 2 flights of F-16s, Apaches, and AH-6 Little Birds, stands out as a mission I’m proud of,” continued Marks about one of the most rewarding missions of his career, which earned him the President’s Award for the Air Force Reserve Command in 2015.
Having more than 950 combat hours like Marks does is valuable for pilots in training because experience adds credibility, said Macaulay.
“I’ve watched him mentor young pilots in the briefing room then teach them in the air,” said Macaulay. “Every sortie, he brings it strong, which infects our young pilots that seek to emulate him.”
As an instructor pilot, Marks said he uses his firsthand experience to help describe situations that pilots learn during their book studies, such as, what it’s really like to withstand enemy fire.
“I like to think we can show them a good work ethic as well,” Marks added. “You always have to be up on the newest weapons, the newest threats, the newest systems. You can never sit still.”
Marks plans on flying the A-10 until he is no longer capable, which gives him a few more years in the cockpit and the potential to reach 7,000 hours.
“I love being part of something that’s bigger than any individual and doing something as a career that truly makes a difference – whatever you do in the Air Force, you’re part of that effort,” said Marks. “It’s going to be up to you to carry on the great tradition we have in our relatively short history as an Air Force.”
In October 1983 the Caribbean nation of Grenada experienced a series of bloody coups over the course of a week, threatening U.S. interests as well as U.S. citizens on the island. In a controversial move, President Reagan decided to launch Operation Urgent Fury, an invasion of the island nation (and the first real-world test of the all-volunteer force in combat).
The Grenadian forces were bolstered by Communist troops from the Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, and Bulgaria. The U.S. rapid deployment force was more or less an all-star team of the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions, the 82nd Airborne, U.S. Marines, Delta Force, and Navy SEALs. Despite the strength of the invasion force, planning, intelligence, communication and coordination issues plagued their interoperability (and led to Congress reorganizing the entire Department of Defense). Army helicopters couldn’t refuel on Navy ships. There was zero intelligence information coming from the CIA. Army Rangers were landed on the island in the middle of the day.
The list of Urgent Fury mistakes is a long one, but one snafu was so huge it became legend. The basic story is that a unit on the island was pinned down by Communist forces. Interoperability and communications were so bad, they were unable to call for support from anywhere. A member of the unit pulled out his credit card and made a long-distance call by commercial phone lines to their home base, which patched it through to the Urgent Fury command, who passed the order down to the requested support.
The devil is in the details. The Navy SEALs Museum says the caller was from a group of Navy SEALs in the governor’s mansion. He called Fort Bragg for support from an AC-130 gunship overhead. The gunship’s support allowed the SEALs to stay in position until relieved by a force of Recon Marines the next day. Some on the ground with the SEALs in Grenada said it was for naval fire support from nearby ships.
The story is recounted in Mark Adkins’ Urgent Fury: the Battle for Grenada. Another report says it was a U.S. Army “trooper” (presumably meaning “paratrooper”) who called his wife to request air support from the Navy. Screenwriter and Vietnam veteran James Carabatsos incorporated the event into his script for “Heartbreak Ridge” after reading about an account from members of the 82nd Airborne. In that version, paratroopers used a payphone and calling card to call Fort Bragg to request fire support.
“An army officer who had needed artillery support… could look out to sea and see naval vessels on the horizon, but he had no way to talk to them. So he used his personal credit card in a payphone, placed a call to Fort Bragg, asked Bragg to contact the Pentagon, had the Pentagon contact the Navy, who in turn told the commander off the coast to get this poor guy some artillery support. Clearly a new system was needed.”
The story has a happy ending from an American POV. These days, the U.S. invasion is remembered by the Grenadian people as an overwhelmingly good thing, as bloody Communist revolutions ended with the elections following the invasion. Grenada marks the anniversary of the U.S. intervention with a national holiday, its own Thanksgiving Day.
“We’re trying to beat ISIL — and there are complications,” the official told the Times. “We have a partner who is collapsing in Yemen and we’re trying to support that. And we’re trying to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Is this all part of some grand strategy? Unfortunately, the world gets a vote.”
This quote may warrant some unpacking: just what are these “complications” the official refers to? And who is this partner that’s “collapsing” in Yemen? After all, the state is essentially defunct, and the country’s recognized president just fled the country by boat. Is this a part of a grand strategy, and what is the “this” the official refers to? Both questions are pointedly left unanswered.
The official is right about one thing: the rest of the world does “get a vote.” That’s true at all times, and the challenge for the US relates to what it can and should do in light of its lack of total control regarding areas that impact vital security and economic interests.
Based on this quote, that’s a question the Obama administration is still struggling to answer.
Although a different anonymous official who spoke with Politico had one possible route to US strategic clarity: a nuclear deal with Iran.
“The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region,” an unnamed official told Politico on March 26.
The Army and the Air Force are launching a new, collaborative war-gaming operation to assess future combat scenarios and, ultimately, co-author a new inter-service, cross-domain combat doctrine.
The concept of cross-domain fires, something inspiring fast-growing attention at the Pentagon, is grounded in the premise that future war challenges will require air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace synergies to a much greater extent than may have been envisioned years ago.
Operating within this concept, Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perking and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General are launching a new series of tabletop exercises to replicate and explore future warfare scenarios – the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.
In a Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”
Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.
Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenants informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China. In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.
Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.
After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions, and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology, and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.
These considerations are at the heart of the Army-Air Force initiative. A recent article in the National Defense University Press, authored by Holmes and Perkins, defines the parameters of this emerging Army-Air Force cross-domain initiative.
“The rate and speed of current and future world events will not allow us the time to synchronize federated solutions. In order to present the enemy with multiple dilemmas, we must converge and integrate our solutions and approaches before the battle starts. We must also become sensor-shooter agnostic in all our platforms, and we must develop a common operating picture,” the article in the National Defense University Press states.
While the particulars of any new doctrine have yet to be determined, based in large measure upon what is learned through these upcoming war games, the U.S. military services are already moving forward testing and advancing the broad parameters of cross-domain fires.
At exercises such as Northern Edge, fighter aircraft have been used in close coordination with Army ground weapons and surface ships to identify and attack targets together in a coordinated fashion. One senior Army official, speaking at length to Warrior Maven, explained that many current mobile ground-attack systems, such as artillery, can be used and adapted for attacks on air and sea enemy targets.
To cite an example, the senior official said an Army Self-Propelled Paladin Howitzer could be used in strategically vital areas, such as the South China Sea, to hold enemy aircraft or enemy ships at-risk.
The Army’s Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, as part of this strategic effort, is currently pursuing software upgrades to the ATACMS missile to better enable the weapon to hit targets at sea. These concepts, which seek to envision roles and dynamics not initially envisioned for a ground-to-ground weapon, comprise the conceptual epicenter of cross-domain fires.
The notion of Cross-Domain fires is woven into the recognition that new sensor technologies, faster computer processing and things like artificial intelligence increasingly enable attack platforms to function as sensors – nodes on a larger, joint, integrated combat enterprise.
A uniquely modern element of this hinges upon the rapid evolution of networking technologies connecting domains in real-time to shorten sensor-to-shooter time and respond to the widest possible range of threats in combat.
The Army’s emerging Integrated Battle Command System is engineered for the purpose of networking nodes within a broader combat apparatus, able to detect threats and relay information across domains. For instance, a land-based sentinel radar could cue a Patriot missile battery or air-attack platform.
Operating through modern command and control systems, aerial ISR nodes could identify targets and relay coordinates to surface ships or ground weapons using next-generation datalinks.
The Air Force plans to actualize key aspects of this with, for instance, LINK 16 upgrades to the F-22 that enable it to improv data-sharing with the F-35 and 4th-generation aircraft in real-time in combat.
“The F-22 program is developing enhanced “5th-to-5th” generation and “5th-to-4th” generation aircraft communications via the TACLink 16 program,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
Grabowski added that this program includes hardware and software modifications to field LINK 16 transmit on the F-22. While not eliminating the need for voice communication, transmitting and receiving via LINK 16 datalinks can expedite data- and video-sharing, target coordination and more secure non-voice connectivity.
Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven that cross-domain operations are currently figuring prominently in the ongoing Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
“Exercises, such as Red Flag, ensure we and our allies are ready to respond to contingencies by providing realistic, advanced, multi-domain combat training in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment employing assets in air, space and cyberspace,” Maj. Christina Sukach, Public Affairs Chief, 99 Air Base Wing, told Warrior Maven.
The Red Flag combat exercises, while not discussed in detail by Air Force officials, did assess the challenge of cross-domain connectivity in a GPS-denied environment. This scenario, wherein satellites are attacked or disabled by enemy weapons, speaks to the importance and challenge of cross-domain fires.
Both the Army and the Air Force are currently exploring a wide range of high-bandwidth frequencies and other communications technologies able generate what the military calls “Positioning, Navigation and Timing,” in the absence of GPS.
These moves are of great relevance to the emerging Army-Air Force cross-domain effort because both services currently rely heavily upon GPS for combat systems. The Army’s Blue Force Tracker and handheld navigation systems, coupled with Air Force JDAMS air-ground coordination are all, at the moment, reliant upon GPS. Any new cross-domain doctrine, it therefore stands to reason, would need extend these efforts to specifically incorporate Army-Air Force combat connectivity in a war without GPS.
The Air Force is mired in a political war on multiple fronts. on one side, it’s fighting new legislation to create a “Space Corps,” on the other, it’s feuding with other service branches over who will take the lead on space operations.
House lawmakers advanced a proposal in late June to hand the Air Force’s current responsibilities outside of Earth’s atmosphere over to a newly-created Corps. The Corps would serve as a unified authority over satellites and spacecraft under U.S. Strategic Command.
The legislation would establish a new U.S. Space Command and make the new chief of the Space Corps the eighth member of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson opposes a Space Corps on grounds it would make the military “more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money.” The Navy is also opposed to a Space Corps, but only because they want to take a lead role in space operations, arguing they could resemble operations at sea.
The inter-service feud over future space operations has experts thinking about whether or not any branch of the U.S. military is prepared to lead in that theater.
“The challenge here is that neither service is 100 percent ready to fight a true war in space,” Harry J. Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “While the Air Force and Navy have assets that certainly have applications towards space, waging war in what is still technically a new and challenging domain is asking a lot.”
Satellites are vulnerable to weapons rival military powers, like Russia or China, are developing, according to Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command. China destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007, and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.
“We must remember, if war were ever to break out with a near-peer competitors like Russia or China, U.S. military forces would be fighting in all domains — land, air, sea, space and cyberspace,” Kazianis said. “Winning in one domain will have consequences and pressure for the other services.”
Some experts think creating an entirely new military bureaucracy could be expensive and add to the current confusion.
“What would make the most sense is for the Navy and Air Force to work together and avoid inter-service rivalry on this important issue,” Kazianis said.
This wouldn’t be the first time branches of the military competed brutally for access to space. During the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union, the U.S. armed services competed among themselves to develop advanced rockets. This inter-service rivalry led to some early confusion and duplication, according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Though some argue a Space Corps could oversee U.S. grand strategy in space, selecting one of the current military branches to lead space operations could be counterproductive.
“We need a service that understands that its core mission is to provide such services to all of our armed forces, to be able to deny them to any adversary, and to protect all American space assets, whether military or civilian,” Dr. Robert Zubrin, a scientist who has written about space warfare and developed NASA’s mission plan to visit Mars, told TheDCNF.
“I don’t see any of the three current armed services being able to comprehensively grasp and prioritize that mission. An officer rises to the top in the Army, Navy or Air Force by leading troops, ships or aircraft into battle. They do not do so by developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to seize and retain space supremacy,” Zubrin said.
The Air Force and Navy adopted a joint “AirSea Battle” concept doctrine in 2010, renamed Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC) in 2015.
“Ultimately, we need to get out of the mindset of ‘this is my turf’ and think about fighting the wars of the future with a multi-domain mindset,” Kazianis said. “This is why the military must push forward on things like AirSea Battle’s successor, JAM-GC. This is the only way to win the wars of the future.”
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The Marines in Afghanistan are definitely in combat, even if they are not being awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, the former commander of Task Force Southwest said on Feb. 1.
“It’s absolutely a combat mission,” Brig. Gen. Roger Turner Jr. told reporters at a roundtable. “The only difference is we’re not maneuvering directly on the enemy. From the command element perspective: It’s full spectrum combat. We shoot at the enemy, they shoot at us.”
Turner led the task force of roughly 300 Marines from April 2017 until January 2018. During that time, Marines helped Afghan troops and interior ministry forces go on the offensive in Helmand province, the home of many senior Taliban leaders and a significant source of the opium that feeds the Taliban’s coffers, he said.
Despite being deployed to Afghanistan for nine months, none of the Marines in the task force were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Times has reported. The CAR is a coveted decoration, especially by younger Marines, because it certifies combat experience.
But on Feb. 1, Turner cautioned against using the CAR as a litmus test to determine if the Marines in Afghanistan are on a combat mission.
“It’s too simplistic to say that nobody earned the Combat Action Ribbon; therefore, they weren’t in combat,” Turner said. “They’re very much in combat. We just weren’t achieving the criteria of the Combat Action Ribbon.”
Sgt. Mohamed Amin and his cadre of fellow instructors at the Camp Commando School of Excellence outside Kabul have their work cut out for them. They have been given the arduous task of executing President Ashraf Ghani’s order to double the commando force in four years, without sacrificing quality.
The CAR recognizes Marines who have taken part in direct action against the enemy, according to the decoration’s requirements. Marines who come under direct fire or are exposed to explosions can be eligible for the award. The CAR is typically not given to Marines who come under indirect fire unless they engage in offensive counter-fire operations.
With help from the Marines, Afghan security forces went on the offensive for 250 days of the 280-day deployment, Turner said. The Marines advised the Afghans at various levels of command and helped coordinate artillery and air support.
Even though the Marines did not fight alongside Afghan units, they were attacked by Taliban rockets and mortars about 20 times during the deployment, Turner said. None of the Marines were wounded.
On Jan. 15, Turner transferred command to Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, who commands a larger task force that will be able to have U.S. military advisers permanently assigned to Afghan battalions, Turner said.
Watson has told Task Purpose that he has the authority to allow Marines to accompany Afghan troops and police into battle, if needed.
“Whether or not we exercise that authority is going to depend on how we assess the situation at the time, and obviously I’m not going to get into specifics on that,” Watson said in a Jan. 15 interview.
After nearly 16 years of war in Afghanistan, it is not clear how much of territory the Taliban controls outright or is contesting. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Staff, said the U.S. estimates that the Afghan government controls about 60%of the country, but a recent BBC report claims the Taliban is active in 70% of Afghanistan.
McKenzie said he does not believe the BBC story is accurate, adding that he “couldn’t completely follow their logic as stated in the article.”
“We certainly don’t think that the Taliban has a presence to some degree in 70% of the countryside – and we would disagree with that,” McKenzie told reporters Feb. 1 during a Pentagon news briefing.
The United States should withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan and stop listening to “stooges” in Kabul, the Taliban warned in an open letter to US President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
The Trump administration is working to finalize a regional strategy that could include nearly 4,000 additional US troops, part of a NATO-led coalition, that have been requested by commanders in the country.
That plan has faced skepticism in the White House, where Trump and several top aides have criticized years of American military intervention and foreign aid.
“Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might,” the Taliban said in the English-language letter released to media and addressed to Trump.
The Taliban, seeking to restore Islamic rule, have been waging an increasingly violent insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government since losing power in a US-led military operation in 2001.
In the lengthy statement, the Taliban criticized the Afghan government as “stooges,” “lying corrupt leaders” and “repulsive sellouts” who are providing Washington with overly optimistic “rosy pictures” of the situation in Afghanistan.
“The war situation in Afghanistan is far worse than you realize!” the statement said, while arguing that the only thing preventing the insurgents from seizing major cities was a fear of causing civilian casualties.
The statement also took aim at generals, who the Taliban said “are concealing the real statistics of your dead and crippled” soldiers.
“We have noticed that you have understood the errors of your predecessors and have resolved to thoroughly rethink your new strategy in Afghanistan,” the letter said. “A number of warmongering congressmen and generals in Afghanistan are pressing you to protract the war in Afghanistan because they seek to preserve their military privileges.”
The senior US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has requested several thousand additional troops to act as advisers to the struggling Afghan security forces.
Powerful voices in the US government, including Republican Senator John McCain, have also called for an “enduring” US military presence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban letter concludes by saying the conflict could be resolved by the withdrawal of foreign troops.
“Everyone now understands that the main driver of war in Afghanistan is foreign occupation,” the Taliban said.
“The Afghans have no ill-intention towards the Americans or any other nation around the world but if anyone violates their sanctums then they are mighty proficient at beating and defeating the transgressors.”
The M247 Sergeant York was officially designated as a “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun” but was for all intents and purposes a tank chassis with anti-aircraft guns attached to the top. The vehicle was named for one Alvin York, a famous and highly decorated WWI hero who captured over 100 German soldiers pretty much single-handedly. Unfortunately for the U.S. tax payers who spent just shy of $2 billion on it (about $4.8 billion today or, humourously enough, after appropriately adjusting for inflation to make the dollar values match, about 1/11th what the entire Apollo program cost), the final version of the weapon ended up being so useless its automatic targeting system couldn’t distinguish between a toilet vent fan and a jet plane, the vehicle itself couldn’t keep up with the tanks it was designed to protect, and it was made obsolete by advances in enemy weaponry after only a few dozen faulty units were made. Here now is the story of the forgotten M247.
This particular weapon was developed by the defunct off-shoot of Ford known as Ford Aerospace in response to a contract put out by the U.S. Army in 1977 requesting what they referred to as an, “Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System.” This was later re-dubbed, “Division Air Defense” which was itself shorted to DIVAD in official documentation.
In a nutshell, the Army wanted a drivable anti-aircraft system that was to serve alongside their newly developed M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley tanks in battle. The contract was put out in direct response to a battle tactic known as “pop-up” which essentially involved helicopters harassing tanks from a distance by hiding behind cover and then popping up briefly to let loose a volley of anti-tank missiles (which themselves were a newly developed technology) before hiding once again.
The U.S. Army found that the tactic was almost impossible to counter with the ground-based weapons it had available at the time as their leading anti-aircraft weapons system, the M163 Vulcan, only had a range of 1.2 KM (3/4 of a mile), while newly developed anti-tank missiles, such as the 9K114 Shturm used by the Soviets, could hit from a range almost five times greater than that. To add insult to injury, the Soviets had no problem countering the pop-up attack method thanks to their ZSU-23-4 Shilka, which is essentially what the United States wanted to copy.
To minimize production time and cost, the Army specified that the basis of the newly developed system had to be mounted atop an M48 Patton tank chassis (something the Army had in great surplus). Further, the system had to more or less use off-the-shelf parts, rather than anything being developed from scratch.
As to the final specific capabilities it was supposed to have, it had to be able to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed and be able to lock onto any target within 8 seconds, all with a minimum 50% chance to hit a target from 3 KM (1.9 miles) away with a single 30 second volley. It also had to be able to continually track up to 48 moving aerial targets, automatically identifying enemy aircraft, and intelligently prioritizing which should be shot down first. All the gunner had to do then was to select the target from the generated list and fire.
Several companies responded to the request with proposed systems, with the Army ultimately narrowing it down to two entrants- one developed by Ford Aerospace and one by General Dynamics, with both companies given $79 million to develop prototypes.
After extensive testing of two prototypes made by each company, in which General Dynamics’ reportedly shot down 19 drones vs. Ford’s 9, Ford was awarded the contract…
As you might have guessed, this decision was controversial, not just because the General Dynamics prototype outperformed Ford’s by a considerable margin, but because, unlike every other entrant, the M247 used more costly 40MM shells instead of 35MM ones which were extensively used by NATO at the time. Rumour had it that Ford stood to make more money from the use of 40MM rounds due to a business deal they had with the manufacturer. However, it should also be noted that the Army may have had good reason to favour the 40MM given its larger size and a newly developed 40mm round that had a proximity sensing fuse built in.
Whatever the case, Ford Aerospace won the lucrative contract and began immediate production of M247s in 1981.
Every M247 Ford produced had problems, mainly centered around their automatic targeting system. This ultimately led one soldier to speculate that the only way the M247 would manage to take out an enemy would be by “driving over the top of it.”
As an example of some of the issues here, in 1982 Ford was set to demonstrate the M247 to a gathered crowd of VIPs and military brass. However, the moment the M247’s tracking system was turned on, it immediately targeted the stands the gathered people were sitting in, resulting in complete chaos as those present trampled one another to get out of the way. Of course, the M247 required the operator to tell it to fire, so there was no real danger here, but one can imagine staring down a pair of 40mm cannons in a live demo would be a tad frightening.
After a while, the engineers thought they’d managed to fix the issue and the demo resumed, only to see the M247 shoot into the ground rather than the drone target it was “locked on” to.
In the aftermath, a Ford Aerospace executive claimed the “glitch” had been caused by the M247 being washed before the demonstration, damaging the targeting system. This explanation didn’t sit well with military brass or the many journalists present, one of whom, Gregg Easterbrook, mused that perhaps Ford Aerospace didn’t realize that it rained in Europe where the M247 was to be deployed.
Other problems with the M247’s targeting system included its seeming inability to tell the difference between helicopters and trees and its penchant for locking onto random other ground-based objects as threats. The most infamous example of this was that time an M247 ignored a passing drone it was supposed to be targeting and instead locked onto a nearby latrine exhaust fan, marking it as a low priority, slow-moving target.
The M247’s targeting system was so poor that even when presented with an unrealistically favorable scenario, such as a helicopter hovering completely still in mid-air, it still missed and took an agonizing 12 seconds just to acquire the target.
How was this targeting system so bad, given that it was developed using off-the-shelf parts that were shown to be reliable already? Mainly because the radar was one designed for the F-16 fighter jet. (In fact, it worked very well in the open air.) However, despite the efforts of the Ford and Army engineers, the random objects on the ground continually wreaked havoc on the radar’s ability to track low flying aerial targets like pop-up attacking helicopters. It also had significant problems tracking high flying targets because when the turrets were raised up they got in the way of the radar… (*queue Yakety Sax*).
On top of all this, the M247’s turret also couldn’t turn fast enough to track fast-moving targets and the hydraulics leaked in even marginally cold weather. Not a problem, of course, given it’s always balmy in the regions that were once the former Soviet Union… (In truth, even if it was balmy, it turns out the tracking system also struggled in high ambient temperatures and had trouble dealing with vibrations, such as generated continually when the M247 moved over the ground.)
Another major problem, as previously mentioned, was that the M247’s top speed wasn’t sufficient to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed, meaning it literally couldn’t drive fast enough to travel with the things it was specifically designed to protect. You might at this point be thinking that one’s on the Army because they’re the ones that made Ford use the M48 Patton tank as the base, and that’s not an entirely unfair thought. However, it should be noted that the M48 was previously capable of keeping up here, but Ford added about 17 tons to the original 45 in their modifications of the turret, making the tank much slower than it had previously been.
Despite all these problems to units being delivered, the Army continued to pump money into the project, mostly because there wasn’t a backup option and there was a very pressing need for such a weapon. However, rumors of the Army faking positive results for the M247 via putting it in unrealistically favorable conditions (such as hovering the drones and attaching radar reflectors), including Oregon state representative Dennis Smith going so far as to publicly accuse them of this, ultimately led to something of an inquiry on the matter. Specifically, in 1984, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger decided to oversee a set of amazingly expensive tests costing $54 million ($144 million today) to better determine what this weapon could and couldn’t do.
The tests did not go well. When the system utterly failed to hit any realistically flown drones, they resorted to having them fly in a straight line. After further failures to actually hit a target, the drones were made to hold still and equipped with radar reflectors… (Rather ironic for a weapon named after a famed WWI soldier known for his incredibly sharpshooting ability.)
All was not lost, however. In one of the rounds of tests where a drone was moving the M247 did manage to slightly damage it, knocking it off course, at which point the safety officer remotely self-destructed it as he was supposed to do if a drone did such a thing. Nevertheless, this was interpreted by the press as the military trying to make it look like the M247 had actually managed a kill, leading to even more outcry that the Army was just trying to fake the results to make the massively expensive M247 look good.
(As to that cost, while it’s widely reported today that the project cost close to $7 billion (about $18 billion today), in fact, that number includes about three decades of anti-aircraft weapon development leading up to and including the actual figure of about $1.8 billion (about $4.8 billion today) spent on the development of the M247s.)
In any event, around the same time of the debacle that was the 1984 tests, the Soviet Union were deploying longer-range anti-tank missiles that were capable of being fired outside of the then current range the M247 could effectively counter the attacks, even if the system did aim properly.
Thus, despite the pressing need for such a system with little in the way of a backup, Weinberger, with support from Congress, some members of which had been present at the test, canceled the project rather than trying to sink more money into it to fix it. In the coming years, most of the M247s found their way onto target ranges where they were destroyed in various tests by weaponry that could actually aim properly. Today, only a handful of M247s still exist, one of which can be found at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park.
Speaking during a QA at the SXSW film festival and tech conference in Austin, Texas, on March 11, 2018, Musk said the two things that stress him most in life right now are production difficulties with the Tesla Model 3 electric car and the dangers of AI.
“I’m really quite close, very close to the cutting edge in AI. It scares the hell out of me,” Musk said. “It’s capable of vastly more than almost anyone on Earth, and the rate of improvement is exponential.”
Musk cited Google’s AlphaGo, a software powered by AI that can play the ancient Chinese board game Go, as evidence of the rise of the machine. In early 2017, AlphaGo clinched a decisive win over the number-one player of Go, the world’s most demanding strategy game.
Musk also predicted that advances in AI will let self-driving cars handle “all modes of driving” by the end of 2019. He said he thinks Tesla’s Autopilot 2.0 will be “at least 100 to 200%” safer than human drivers within two years. Musk imagines drivers can sleep at the wheel someday.
The rate of improvement excites and worries Musk. He expressed a need for regulating AI development to ensure the safety of humanity, but he didn’t say who should regulate it.
“I think the danger of AI is much bigger than the danger of nuclear warheads by a lot,” Musk said. “Nobody would suggest we allow the world to just build nuclear warheads if they want, that would be insane. And mark my words: AI is far more dangerous than nukes.”
Musk wants to create a Plan B society on Mars
Musk has a backup plan in case nuclear war — or AI — wipes out the human race.
The SpaceX founder wants to put 1 million people on Mars as a sort of Plan B society. He told the crowd at SXSW that it would be ideal to get the base operational before a World War III-type event happens.
In the event of nuclear devastation, Musk said, “we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”
Musk has yet to detail exactly how hypothetical Mars colonists will survive for months or years on end.
Japan’s TV Asahi reports that about 200 North Koreans have died in a tunnel collapse at a nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, in North Korea’s northeast.
In early September, North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test there, detonating a nuclear device under a mountain. Experts have said it was a hydrogen bomb about 10 times as powerful as the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the close of World War II.
Satellite imagery has revealed that the mountain above the test site has since suffered a series of landslides and seismic aftershocks thought to have resulted from the blast.
North Korean sources told TV Asahi that a tunnel collapsed on 100 workers and that an additional 100 who went in to rescue them also died under the unstable mountain.
Using the slider below, you can see the affects of the test detonations, especially along the mountain ridges:
The tunnels in and out of the test site had been damaged, and the workers may have been clearing or repairing them to resume nuclear testing.
If the test site is compromised, hazardous radioactive material left over from the blast may seep out.
If that debris were to reach China, Beijing would see that as an attack on its country, Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute and a managing editor at 38 North, previously told Business Insider.
This is a proud week for the family of the Mullet Marine as he finally graduated out of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and is currently making his way to learn to be a motor transport mechanic.
Here’s to you, you glorious, mullet-having, Budweiser tank-top-rockin’ bad ass. You’re going to get hell for a while until you can prove that you’re going to be the best damn mechanic the Corps has ever seen. Don’t let any of that discourage you. People love that you showed up to San Diego “‘Murica AF.” Use that to your advantage.
Become the essence of what it means to be a Marine. That also means keeping your nose clean from UCMJ action. You didn’t ask for it but you’re unfortunately in a position where one slip up will find you in the Marine Corps Times. We all expect you to make mistakes and maybe buy a Mustang at 37% interest rate, but no one wants to see you fall from grace. The military community one day wants you to succeed.
In twenty-some years down the road, we want to read on your Wikipedia (or whatever the future version of Wikipedia is) that Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps “Mullet” got his nickname way back in the day he entered the Corps. But until then, BZ, Mullet Marine. BZ.
On that note, now that a meme has graduated boot camp, let’s get into some more memes:
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)
(Meme via Ranger Up)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Shammers United)
(Meme via Navy Memes)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)
(Meme via Military World)
When literally anyone asks me how anything works in the S-6.
It’s just like the drop test. I don’t know why taking a SINCGARS and dropping it from a few feet above the concrete makes it magically works. It just does.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
“How dare you betray us like that? We were supposed to get out and open a t-shirt/coffee/military lifestyle site together!”
Speaking of which, did you know that WATM now has a merch section? Wink, wink.
In possibly the most polite and delightful medal ceremony of all time, World War II veteran Edna Wells, 94, was surprised with her long overdue service medal — and a few extra celebrants.
Edna, a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, was eighteen years old when she became a “Wren” — the popular term for those who served in the WRNS.
“It was great. I was just so happy to be doing my time for my country,” Edna shared of her military service.
When the war was over, Edna didn’t know that service members had to ask for their commendation medals, but thanks to her granddaughter Sharron and Joanna Lumley of the BBC, Edna finally received the gratitude she deserved.
Watch the video — and trust me, you’re going to want the sound on for her lovely Scottish lilt alone!
World War Two veteran Edna never claimed her service medal – until now?️ | VE Day 75 – BBC
When asked what it was like to serve with “all those sailor boys” Edna joked, “Well, I had a few! And a lad in every port!”
Edna’s ceremony coincided with the 75th anniversary of VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day, when the Allies gained victory over the Axis powers in the European Theater of World War II. Lumley asked Edna what she remembered of May 8, 1945.
“It was one party after another. Nobody did anything that day. It was just abuzz. We didn’t believe it to begin with — we went to the officers and they said, ‘Yes it’s true. The war is over,'” Edna recalled.
Lumley then hinted that Edna would be receiving her overdue medal sooner than she’d expected and invited the veteran to go outside. Waiting for her, from a respectful and safe distance, was Captain Chris Smith, regional Navy commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Smith presented Edna with her medal, placing it before her so that Sharron could pick it up and wipe it clean before hanging it from her grandmother’s collar.
Edna returned Smith’s salute with one as sharp as ever while neighbors banged pots and pans and cheered her on.
This past week, the 65th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, saw the return of 55 troops’ remains by the North Koreans to the United States. A U.S. Air Force C-17 flew into Wonsan, North Korea, to pick up the remains before returning them to Osan Air Base, South Korea.
The troops who received the remains wore white gloves and dress uniforms. The remains of the deceased were placed in boxes and each box was draped in the United Nations’ flag — not Old Glory. Now, before you get up in arms about it, know that there’s a good reason for using the UN flag.
And so began the first of many wars between Capitalism and Communism.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. P. McDonald)
The Korean War began on June 25th, 1950, when the North sent troops south of the 38th parallel. Shortly after the invasion, the newly-formed United Nations unanimously opposed the actions of North Korea.
The Soviet Union would’ve cast a dissenting vote if they hadn’t been boycotting participation in the United Nations for allowing the Republic of China (otherwise known as Taiwan) into the security council instead of the People’s Republic of China (communist mainland China). Instead, the Soviets and the communist Chinese backed the fledgling communist North Korea against the United Nations-backed South Korea.
The South Korean loss of life totaled 227,800 — quadruple every other nation combined.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Gibbons)
Historically speaking, the United States was not alone in fighting the communists. Nearly every UN signatory nation gave troops to the cause. While America had sent in 302,483, the United Kingdom sent 14,198, Canada sent 6,146, Australia sent 2,282, Ethiopia sent 1,271, Colombia sent 1,068 — the list continues.
South Korea contributed almost doubled the amount of every other nation combined at 602,902, which doesn’t include the unknown number of resistance fighters who participated but weren’t enlisted. These numbers are astounding for conflict often called “the Forgotten War.”
Since then, nothing has really changed except the regimes.
United Nations troops fought en masse against the communist aggressors. The North had pushed the South to the brink, reaching the southern coastal city of Pusan by late August 1950. When United Nations forces entered the conflict at the battle of Inchon, the tides shifted. By late October, the battle lines had moved past Pyongyang, North Korea, and neared the Chinese border in the northwest.
It wasn’t until Chinese reinforcements showed up that the war was pushed back to where it all started — near the 38th parallel. These massive shifts in held territory meant that the dead from both sides of the conflict were scattered across the Korean Peninsula by the time the armistice was signed on July 27th, 1953.
North Korea hasn’t been much help as even they don’t always know which battle the remains were from. Which, you know, could have at least been a start.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)
The first repatriation of remains happened directly after the war, on September 1st, 1954, in what was called Operation Glory. Each side agreed to search far and wide for remains until the operation’s end, nearly two months later, on October 30th. 13,528 North Korean dead were returned and the United Nations received 4,167 — but these numbers were only a portion of the unaccounted-for lives. America alone is still missing over 5,300 troops. South Koreans and UN allies are missing even more.
Over the years, many more remains were found and repatriated. Throughout the process, South Korea was fairly accurate in the labeling and categorizing of remains. North Korea, however, was not. To date, one of the only written record of Allied lives lost behind enemy lines comes from a secret list, penned by Private First Class Johnnie Johnson.
His list — a list he risked his life to create while imprisoned — identified 496 American troops who had died in a North Korean prisoner-of-war camp. Though this list has been the basis for some identifications, it accounts for just one-fourteenth of American missing fallen.
Today, the names, nationalities, and service records of a still-unknown number of fallen troops have been lost to time.
Of the 55 remains transferred this week at Wonsan, none have been identified. There is no way of knowing who that troop was, which country they were from, or, to some degree, if they were even enlisted at all. Until they are properly identified, they will be covered by the United Nations’ flag to show respect, regardless of which nation they served.